The Assam government is reviewing whether the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) could be withdrawn from some areas before making recommendations to the Centre. This move may have repercussions in J&K and Manipur where the Act has been a major subject of dispute between the state governments and the Centre.
Declaring the entire Assam as a “disturbed area”, the Centre had imposed the Act on November 27, 1990, at the height of militancy spearheaded by Ulfa. The Act enables the armed forces to exercise special powers while combating militancy.
Dispur will now present its proposal to review continuation of the Act at a meeting of the strategic group of the Unified Command structure in the state headed by the Army next week.
Additional director general of police (special branch) Pallab Bhattacharya said, “AFSPA has been in force in the state for 26 years. At the last meeting with MHA, the issue was raised. There are demands from various quarters to lift this Act. We are taking a relook …if it (the Act) can be withdrawn from some areas.”
He added, “The areas have to be identified after discussions. There is a large deployment of Army in the state and if it has to be withdrawn from some areas, the state government would then have to be empowered to make alternative security deployment in those areas. Then, instead of this Act, the IPC will be exercised in those areas to take action.”
Though the Act is in force in the entire state, the Army has been gradually withdrawn from some districts as the situation improved. In these districts, the Army has been replaced with central paramilitary organisations (CPO). At the moment, the CPO districts in the state are Jorhat, Majuli, Kamrup (Metro), Karimganj, Hailkandi and Lakhimpur where the Army has no operational role to play.
Apart from the state, the Act is in force in Nagaland, Manipur (except the Imphal municipal area), Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts of Arunachal, a 20-km belt in Meghalaya bordering Assam and J&K.
The Act, which was also imposed in Punjab during its troubled days, was withdrawn fully in 1997. The Act, which was imposed in Tripura in 1997, was withdrawn in 2015.